If Jonathan Pollard has fallen off your radar, you’re not alone. From time to time, his name pops up when the Free Jonathan Pollard movement gets reenergized. And Mr. Pollard’s name came up during President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel last month, though there were more important issues.
It surfaced there because decades ago he sold U.S. secrets to Israel, was caught and convicted. He’s been in a U.S. prison since 1985 — and the Israelis want him released. They want it badly enough that Danny Danon, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, took to USA Today not long ago to condemn Mr. Pollard’s imprisonment as a “historic wrong.” For good measure, he added, “If President Obama plans on asking the Israeli people to trust him during what promises to be a tumultuous four years, bringing Jonathan home would be a just and noble way to do so.”
That’s hardly the way a representative of a nation as dependent on the United States as Israel is should talk. If that’s the price of Israeli trust, let’s get by without it. Mr. Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison, is scheduled to have a parole hearing in 2015. If he gets out then, he ought to consider himself lucky.
While serving as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, Mr. Pollard sold millions of classified documents — sometimes by the suitcase — to the Israelis. Israel paid him $2,500 a month and chipped in European vacations, jewelry and a Swiss bank account for a bonus of several hundred thousand dollars.
If Israel was his only customer, it wasn’t for lack of effort. He tried to sell U.S. secrets to Pakistan, South Africa and even Australia.
Not surprisingly, his spying came at a cost for America. It took vast sums of money to replace the intelligence systems he compromised, including plans for U.S. electronic surveillance around the world. What’s more, the Soviet Union — no friend to the United States in the 1980s — benefited from Mr. Pollard’s efforts as well, though perhaps not directly from him. Moscow acquired information on how our nation tracked its submarines — material he had sold to Israel.
The Israelis don’t seem to think Mr. Pollard did anything wrong, but then, he spied for them, not on them. This country owes Mr. Pollard nothing.